Local experts react after CDC drops 5-day COVID-19 isolation guidelines

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On March 1, 2020, New York State had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Now four years to the day later, the CDC said the disease is no longer the public health threat it once was.

For the first time since 2021, the CDC is loosening its COVID isolation recommendations. From now on people who test positive for the virus no longer have to quarantine for five days.

“You should not interpret this guidance as we’re done with COVID. You should interpret this guidance as that we’re making it more facile for individuals to carry on with their lives. But at the same time, protecting others,” said Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UB Dr. Thomas Russo.

Instead of isolating for five days, patients only need to stay away from others for 24 hours once they are fever-free and their symptoms improve.

“The CDC makes recommendations, but ultimately, public health measures, such as isolation, guidance from COVID will come from our state public health department. Historically, New York State has generally followed CDC recommendations,” Russo said.

After resuming normal activities, people should still take precautions for the next five days. Those include but are not limited to wearing masks, purifying indoor air, and cleaning touched surfaces.

The CDC also reports that by the end of last year, 98 percent of people in the United States had disease-fighting antibodies due to vaccination, prior infection, or both.

Still, the question on experts’ minds remains: was Friday’s decision the right one?

“There’s always going to be a little bit of caution whenever you start pulling back on some of these restrictions that we’ve had for a long time now. I have no doubt that there’s going to be careful eyes on this to see if we start seeing an increase in the amount of hospitalizations and death,” said Dr. Joseph Chow from WNY Immediate Care.

COVID-19 is now in line with how other common viruses like the flu and RSV, are managed.

Still, experts say it’s a disease you have to continue taking seriously.

“I think the concern would be if people let their guard down, if they’re not really feeling poorly, they may not test themselves, they may not seek treatment. In which case they may get worse, or they may miss that opportunity to get treated. So, again, another one of those that we must keep an eye on. If this is relaxed if we’re going to see increases in more severe illness,” Chow said.

“Even though we may be able to get out of isolation earlier, please use that mask. Please protect others. Please protect our most vulnerable,” Russo said.     

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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